I’ve gotten out of the habit of charity recently.
My excuse is that I’ve been a busy man. A Russian Orthodox congregation in rural Indiana doesn’t build itself, and I’ve been (if I may) key to getting it off the ground. I attended largely on my own to finding a plot of land for our little church, and to getting it built—and if the builders worked off a blueprint that we downloaded off the Moscow Patriarchate website, they still had to be hired, and overseen.
Then there were all the incidentals: the haggling with bureaucracies over permits so that we could run electrical lines and dig a cesspool, and the rest of it. Add to that my duties administering Mother’s daily labors at our Benedict Option farmstead, and you can see why my time has not been my own.
But my recent health scare has, to use a low-Protestant expression, “put the fear of God in me.” I’ve responded by thinking more about my duty to the Logos—and to my fellow man. The result is that I’ve returned to the pro bono legal work I used to do as a younger man.
I haven’t written much here about my legal practice, because there isn’t much to write. I don’t even maintain an office in town anymore, but just work out of my house, drafting the occasional will or other document for my rural neighbors. This is work that, though modest, helps the financial situation at our organic Christian homestead. Yet humble though my work may be, I remain a member of the Indiana State Bar Association, and lately I’ve been using that status to good effect, volunteering to represent young Black men who have fallen afoul of the law.
O what degradation of the soul have I witnessed! O what torments of the spirit, rivaled only by those torments in which writhed the spirits of the denizens of Gomorrah! O what a hell we have made for ourselves on earth!
Look at this young Black, for instance. I’m obliged to defend him in court, against serious charges. The state of Indiana accuses him of, under the influence of PCP, choking a neighbor’s dog with his—the dog’s—own feet, all four of which (it is alleged) the young man severed in a moment of chemical-induced disorientation, with the help of a common bandsaw.
A serious crime, I admit. And yet I find that I love this Black, my charge, with a deep and Christian love. I gaze past the brown mask of his face to see the young man inside, a young man who reveals himself in small, kind gestures: a chair held out, when I go to sit; a tenderly offered “good morning”; a blush (if a Black can be said to blush) and a coy evasion of my gaze when I smile at him over the barrier in the courthouse restroom.
This is a beautiful child of the Lord, and yet he has, in his short life spent amidst poverty, humiliation, and cruelty, plumbed the depths. It is a cliché to blame society; and yet, in a certain sense, I blame society. This boy is a child of his environment, of a society involved in a terrible experiment to forget its Christian heritage. He’s a victim. His father died “in a robbery,” he tells me, leaving it unclear whether the paterfamilias was robber or victim. His mother, Brother Aiden tells me, having seen the boy’s last name written on my notepad, and being (I assume) a keen reader of the local crime blotter, was a crack-whore of some local repute.
I see similar social carnage in most every case that I defend. Behold, if you dare to see, a lithesome Black girl, coltish and shy. Despite her mere 16 years she’s being tried for murdering her uncle by injecting him while he slept with bleach. “June-Bug” was the uncle’s name. He was a pimp, and, as Brother Aiden informs me, having seen his surname written in my notebook as well, he was a procurer of no slight violence. (And of some local repute. “He had the best-looking whores,” Aiden tells me. “I mean, rumor has it, at least.”)
Were I not a Christian, I would say June-Bug deserved to die. But anger gives way in me to pity. Sobbing, I fall to my knees to pray. Was it for this teenage girl to suffer, and murder, that our Redeemer died on the cross? Was it so that our Blacks could twist in desolation that the Logos sent his only-begotten Son to us, to assume our sins in his fleshly guise?
Yes, I blame our American society—godless, spiritually dead, its senses dulled with masturbation and worship of Mammon (and Zion). The cord that tied us to the infinite has been sundered. We’ve lost sight of the Word, and turned away from Love. We’ve fouled our own house, and its walls are riven by sin. It will not be long until it falls.